Future Stars: Hare Squead (Columbia)

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

The Irish had a strong showing at Eurosonic, thanks to acts such as Áine Cahill and Brian Deady, but one group you’d never guess were from Dublin, until you heard their accents, is Hare Squead. The strangely-named trio (it’s a spoonerism of “Square Head”, so Squead is pronounced “Skwed”) are a lively, funny bunch who bounce around the stage, rapping and singing to dance beats. Rather than imitating their British neighbours, and despite being signed to Columbia UK, Hare Squead have gone for a much more American style. Their characterful performance and witty lyrics could be compared to Rae Sremmurd, Outkast and Odd Future, while the influence of 90s rock creeps through on some tracks. Living outside of the current rap scenes enables Hare Squead to pick what they like and create a new sound. Now their challenge is to be embraced by the hip hop community, which is tricky when you don’t belong anywhere.

Future Stars: Alma (Virgin EMI)

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

I loved Alma’s single Dye My Hair from first listen, but I was confused as to why it was getting a push in the UK, when so many Scandi artists with bigger followings and more local success don’t. It all made much more sense when I saw her live at this month’s Eurosonic Festival in the Netherlands. Playing at one of Groningen’s best venues, the Grand Theatre, the 21-year-old Finnish singer was a bright ball of energy that brought the crowd to life. She performed with a band that included her twin sister, who has matching neon yellow hair. At a festival for new artists, it can be hard to get the audience dancing, but Alma had a recognisable hit on her side (her collaboration with Felix Jaehn, Bonfire), as well as a set full of catchy dance-pop tunes. Along with Venior, LCMDF and Saara Aalto, Alma is showing that the Finns can have fun.

3 things to love about Eurosonic and 1 thing that HAS to change

Earlier this month I headed over to Groningen, a small city in the Netherlands, for one of Europe’s biggest showcase festivals. Taking place in mid-January, Eurosonic Noorderslag is the first gig of the year for most of the artists and attendees, which means it sets the tone for the year ahead. It’s a chance for new stars to jump ahead of the predicted ones-to-watch, and for the music industry to catch up with contacts and friends, and to eat lots of Dutch frites.

Here are three things to love about Eurosonic…

1. Finding out if your new faves are actually any good

Through compiling Future Pop every week, I regularly get obsessed with new artists at an early stage, before there’s enough material online to really know how great they are. Eurosonic is a rare opportunity to see these acts live, often before they’ve played in London, and find out if the obsession is warranted. My most anticipated act this year was Iceland’s Glowie, and though she’s definitely not ready for global superstardom right now, after seeing her at Eurosonic I’m very hopeful for her future.

2. Falling in love with an artist you never expected

My favourite performances of Eurosonic this year came from two acts I was aware of, and interested in, but certainly not desperate to see. As you’ll read in this week’s Future Pop (coming to your inboxes later today), I was impressed by the energy and fun of both Finnish pop star Alma and Irish rap trio Hare Squead. Another surprise favourite was also Irish, but very different – singer-songwriter Áine Cahill.

3. Discovering hidden music scenes of Europe

Each year Eurosonic has a focus country, which features in convention panels and sends over a selection of their best talent to perform at the festival. This year it was Portugal – not a country known for its home-grown artists, but it is home to one of Europe’s top summer festivals, Primavera Sound. Artists such as Best Youth and Neev showed the diversity of the Portuguese music scene.

And the one thing that HAS to change:

The weather. Cold, rain, snow, hail… Groningen in January’s got it all. Can we not just move the whole thing to Spain next year?

Song of the Week: Glowie – No More

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

This week I’m off to the Netherlands for Eurosonic festival, where artists from around Europe will be performing. As the first showcase festival of the year, this is their chance to get the attention of live agents, festival bookers and the media, in the hope of breaking out of their local scene to build a following across the rest of Europe in 2017. I featured some of the acts I’m most excited to see on This Must Be Pop, including Icelandic teen star Glowie (real name Sara Pétursdóttir), who I’ve been obsessed with since I discovered her while browsing the festival line-up last week. Collaborating with Stop Wait Go, the team behind Icelandic girlband The Charlies, Glowie has released a series of world-class pop tunes. Her sound is modern and mid-tempo, sweet not too saccharine. The best example is her debut single No More, with its cool stop-motion video filmed around Reykjavik. No Lie and Party also come highly recommended.

Future Hits: Shut your mind off and let your heart breathe

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

My weekly playlist features five tracks I predict will be future hit singles in the UK.

Tracklisting:

  • Ed Sheeran – Shape of You
  • Ed Sheeran – Castle On The Hill
  • Snakehips & MØ – Don’t Leave
  • Martin Jensen – Solo Dance
  • Kris Kross Amsterdam & Conor Maynard ft. Ty Dolla $ign – Are You Sure?

For more Future Hits, subscribe to my  Spotify playlist, updated weekly with the next big thing.

Future Stars: Migos (300 Entertainment)

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

Hip hop trio Migos have been together since 2009, but it wasn’t until 2013 that they started to break though, with their first Billboard Hot 100 entry, Versace. They released a critically acclaimed EP, Y.R.N., and signed to 300 Entertainment (an independent label distributed by Atlantic), eventually releasing their debut album Yung Rich Nation in 2015. A few months (and no hits) later, with band member Offset in jail, they claimed they had left the label, which was denied by founder Lyor Cohen. However, this troubled time was followed by their biggest hit yet, Look at My Dab, known for its viral dance video. While the group had made a name for themselves in the hip hop scene, they still had no significant chart success. That all changed in the last few months of 2016. They signed a management deal with Kanye West’s GOOD Music, and they’re now enjoying a true crossover moment. Bad and Boujee, featuring rising rapper Lil Uzi Vert, sits at no.2 on the Hot 100 this week, jumping from 13 the week before. It’s also likely to become their first UK hit, after entering the singles chart at no.67. The track has inspired a trend of “rain drop, drop top” memes and was chosen by many music sites (Complex, Fader, Fact etc.) as one of the top songs of 2016. They’ll release their second album Culture later this month.

Future Stars: Julia Michaels (Republic)

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

Most songs released by young pop stars are written by (or with) older people, usually those who never made it as an artist in their own right. That’s not the case with Julia Michaels, who has become one of the most sought-after pop writers in the past few years. Now aged 23, she got her break as a writer in her late teens, working with Lindy Robbins on tracks for Demi Lovato and Fifth Harmony. 2015 was a big year, as she caught my attention for the brilliant Love Myself by Hailee Steinfeld, and had 2 big hits with Justin Bieber’s Sorry and Selena Gomez’s Good For You. Although she initially wasn’t interested in becoming an artist, she was asked to appear on tracks by Jason Derulo, Zedd and Kygo, and even performed with Kygo at the 2016 Olympics. Republic Records, whose artists she often writes for, convinced her to sign with them, and her debut single Issues comes out this Friday. While she has written mostly for very mainstream pop acts, from Britney Spears to Little Mix, I think Julia’s own music will be more indie-pop, as she cites artists like Laura Marling and Missy Higgins as her influences. Songwriters have often struggled to turn their success into pop stardom, the most obvious example being Bonnie McKee, but there could be a space for Julia if she focuses on a radio-friendly singer-songwriter style.

5 acts every pop fan needs to see at Eurosonic 2017

Next week I’m off to the Netherlands for Eurosonic Noorderslag, one of the biggest festivals for new and emerging artists in Europe. Last year I got the chance to see exciting new pop acts such as Aurora, Dua Lipa and Astrid S, so I’ve been busy reviewing the very large line-up to decide who I have to check out this time. If you’re going too, firstly tweet me so we can say hi, and secondly, read on to find out which acts are a must-see for all pop fans heading to Eurosonic 2017.

Alma

alma

Saara Aalto wasn’t the only Finn who caught my attention in the last few months. Alma’s catchy single Dye My Hair was one of my favourite New Music Friday discoveries, so I’m looking forward to seeing if she has any more tracks like that up her sleeve at her live show.

Bearoid

bearoid

Spain doesn’t have a reputation for  making electro-pop, but singer-producer Bearoid brings the party vibe they are known for to his singles, such as  Out of My Mind  and Bad Karma. His  cute stage name and smiley, energetic performance was enough to put him on my must-see list.

Era Istrefi

era

Dua Lipa might have cracked the UK charts in 2016, but when it comes to YouTube, another new Kosovan artist had a much bigger breakthrough. Era Istrefi’s single Bon Bon has over 260 million views – especially impressive as the track is actually in Albanian, a language spoken by just 5 million people.

Glowie

glowie

When I discovered Icelandic teen star Glowie, I  was instantly  100x more excited about Eurosonic. So far she’s released three impeccable pop tunes, No More, No Lie and Party, working with underrated producers Stop Wait Go (also responsible for an EP of  hidden treasures  by Icelandic girlband The Charlies).

Best Youth

best-youth

Each year Eurosonic has one European nation as its “focus country” and this time  it’s Portugal. A variety of Portuguese acts are on the bill, including indie-pop duo Best Youth. In their  5 years together they’ve had success at home and built an online fanbase with tracks such as Mirrorball and  Black Eyes.

In addition to these recent discoveries, you can also check out many of my Future Pop featured acts at Eurosonic, including Anne-Marie, James TW and Skott.

Song of the Week: Star Cast – I Bring Me

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

Star is the new US TV series from the creator of Empire, following a girlgroup on the pursuit of stardom. The pilot episode aired on Fox last month, and 4 songs by the stars of the show were released as an EP via Republic Records. The three girlband members were found through auditions, but lead singer Jude Demorest (who plays the titular character, Star) already had, or perhaps still has, a solo deal with Epic. She’s listed as a co-writer on Work From Home by Fifth Harmony, which may mean it was originally meant for her (5H are also with Epic). The premiere had mixed reviews, but I enjoyed it enough to keep watching, and there were a couple of songs I loved: I Can Be and I Bring Me. The tracks are sassy, confident, quality R&B-pop, and the girls are talented performers, so I really hope the show picks up steam and they actually have a chance of becoming a real thing, like a cool 2017 version of S Club 7. I Bring Me is full of attitude and witty lines – it reminds me of L.A.N.C.E. by June’s Diary, the group produced by Kelly Rowland’s talent show Chasing Destiny. American TV needs to keep offering up R&B girlgroups until one works, and we can all enjoy their musical output in the process.

Future Hits: We could throw shapes together but it doesn’t mean you’re in my circle

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

My weekly playlist features five tracks I predict will be future hit singles in the UK.

Tracklisting:
  • Jax Jones ft. Raye – You Don’t Know Me
  • JP Cooper – September Song
  • Alan Walker – Alone
  • James Arthur – Safe Inside
  • London Grammar – Rooting For You

For more Future Hits, subscribe to my  Spotify playlist, updated weekly with the next big thing.